Monday, September 9, 2013
Ghosts in the Machine
I have just finished the second or third draft of a short story called Rupture. The title has strong resonances for me. Life contains ruptures though, being survivors, we try to gloss them over, smooth them out, fill in the voids and talk ourselves through the miseries they cause because we want our lives to be frictionless, running like the well-oiled wheels of dreamy steam trains. From broken relationships to relocation, from children’s injuries to their untimely deaths, from dying parents whose desire for a last, healing conversation went unrequited to unspoken praise and cowardly refusal to challenge, our lives have events which rupture our hopes and fantasies about ourselves. The aftermaths of these accidental or willful intrusions stay with us forever, popping up in our dreams or causing us to adopt aberrant behaviours dislocated from their cause by denial. Life is tough and in the main we prefer to recount and make ourselves believe the glossy, Hollywood version of it. Dwelling on the ruptures makes us morbid and unsavoury companions.
In the short story of which I speak, a ghostly piece, the main protagonist undergoes a massive rupture of his delightful existence. The hemorrhaging away of warmth and intimacy begins when he views, like a peeping tom, a videotape of the family life of people he does not know.
It was like watching an old cinema classic in which he felt deep pangs of longing for an actress who might by the time he was viewing it have lost her glorious early beauty or even died. All old films contained moving death masks.
I am drawn to old films, not because of their reputation necessarily, though that helps me to swallow the pill with a coating of sugar, but because of the surreal sense of rupture. The past has been ripped out of its continuum and is dangled before me. These once flesh and blood actors, plying their trade with one-time verve and optimism under the spotlight of fame, now parade their wares on a screen in my sitting room.
They unsettle me.